Well, it’s the first day of a new month and that means the Chicago Police Department will be releasing its monthly press release to declare “crime is down” in the city. The department usually issues its number-twisting missive within minutes of midnight on the first of the month. They delayed today’s release until after 8 a.m. — probably so they could cherry pick a few extra stats to achieve maximum “downness.”
Oh, look! The press release just arrived. Let’s walk through it together and examine some of the ways our police department manipulates data to mislead the general public. Here we go!
Delayed deaths, comparisons to record highs
CPD’s press release begins with a doozy. We’ve highlighted two key sections.
First up: When CPD released its “crime is down” email on July 1 of last year, it said there were 89 murders during June 2020, not the 98 they’re claiming today. That’s because some shooting victims have the audacity to not die in the same month they are gravely wounded. Nine of last June’s murder victims perished after CPD fired off its monthly “crime is down” press release at — we’re not making this up — 12:02 a.m. on July 1, 2020.
The same thing will happen this year. June’s tally of 78 murders will increase. For now, though, CPD enjoys the luxury of comparing maximized 2020 murder numbers to minimized 2021 stats.
The luxury of delayed deaths also allows the department to claim there have been six fewer murders so far this year, because many 2021 shooting victims who will be dying from their injuries are still hanging on. Most of last year’s victims, now dead, are graciously inflating the 2020 comparison number.
It’s also important to know this: June 2020 recorded more murders than any other June in the history of the modern Chicago Police Department. And, after victims who are still clinging to life succumb to their wounds, last month will likely rank among the five worst Junes in history.
In fact, we’ll share something with you. Several years ago, when then-CPD Supt. Garry McCarthy was bragging about having murder rates lower than the 1950s, we asked the department for a copy of the monthly murder totals that he was using to make his claim.
Incredibly, they sent it to us! Here it is. Feel free to print it out and keep it in your pocket.
So, anyway. Even though last month will surely be among the five most murderous Junes since before man walked on the Moon, the police leaders are apparently quite proud of their performance.
Selective comparisons and comparisons to record highs
Let’s take a look at another line in that same paragraph from CPD’s press release:
Did you catch that? Look again. CPD opened the paragraph by comparing June 2020 murders to June 2021 murders. For carjackings, though, CPD compared June to January. What’s up with that?
Easy! January 2021 was quite possibly the worst month on record for carjackings in Chicago, with 215 cases. The police department is choosing to compare June to January so it can boast of a huge decline. But, in fact, the number of carjackings in Chicago is increasing, not decreasing.
Comparing June 2020 to June 2021, carjackings are actually up 7%. In fact, carjacking cases have increased every month since March. Does this chart look like a “continued decline” to you? If so, you should apply to the Chicago Police Department! Here’s a link to get your application in motion.
Now, there are other tricks and manipulations in CPD’s monthly press releases. Many of them are really boring to analyze. Hopefully, the few we outlined here will help some folks be careful consumers of the police department’s nonsense. We’d like to believe TV and newspaper reporters would even consider questioning the police department about its manipulations rather than simply rewriting the press releases for publication and broadcast. Maybe the reporters could ask the difficult questions while cameras are rolling! (Just kidding. No Chicago reporter would ever do that.)
It’s also worth mentioning that CPD’s monthly “crime is down” email is actually reviewed, edited, and approved by some of the highest-ranking people in the mayor’s office. You can see that review process in action in this recently-released hacked email.
If the city’s police and political leaders ever stop to wonder why people don’t believe them when they claim to be transparent, accountable, honest, and reform-minded, they should look no further than the monthly “crime is down” press releases. After all, if they can’t be straight up about statistics, of all things, why should people trust their versions of events in more opaque matters — like when an officer shoots someone?
The willingness of CPD and political leaders to mislead the public about simple things makes it very difficult to believe what they say about the difficult things.
Anyway, July of last year was the single worst July for murders in the modern history of the Chicago Police Department, too. It was a blow-out. Over 100 dead. Unless the city’s murderous demons manage to outpace that incredible 31-day slaughter, the weeks ahead will surely be “down” in comparison. And, if not, the Chicago Police Department will find a way to say they are.